UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox tonight apologised for making a mistake in allowing “distinctions to be blurred” in his working relationship with former flatmate Adam Werritty.
In a statement released on his return to London, Fox conceded that his “frequent contacts with him may have given an impression of wrongdoing”.
The beleaguered minister also accepted that their close ties my have given outsiders the “misleading impression that Werritty was an official adviser rather than simply a friend”.
He said: “I accept that it was a mistake to allow distinctions to be blurred between my professional responsibilities and my personal loyalties to a friend.
“I am sorry for this.
“At no stage did I or my department provide classified information or briefings to Werritty or assist with his commercial work – let alone benefit personally from this work.
“Nevertheless, I do accept that given Werritty’s defence-related business interests, my frequent contacts with him may have given an impression of wrongdoing, and may also have given third parties the misleading impression that Werritty was an official adviser rather than simply a friend.
“I have learned lessons from this experience.” Fox has apologised to Prime Minister David Cameron, who is poised to make a decision on his fate tomorrow after receiving a report into the controversy.
The Defence Secretary added: “I accept that with the benefit of hindsight I should have taken much greater care to ensure that any meetings with Adam Werritty, at which defence and security related issues were raised, were properly attended by officials and recorded – to protect myself and the Government from any suggestion of wrongdoing.
“I have apologised to the Prime Minister and agreed with my permanent secretary to put in place new procedures to ensure that this does not happen again.” Fox insisted he will “answer all questions in the House of Commons” tomorrow following demands by the opposition Labour party for him to make a full statement.
It follows a raft of allegations over recent days about the unusual involvement Werritty, best man at the minister’s wedding, had in brokering meetings for Dr Fox and the access he had to government.
The self-styled advisor had no formal parliamentary or government position yet accompanied the Defence Secretary on overseas visits and meetings with foreign dignitaries.
Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy has written to the Prime Minister calling for a full investigation into the controversy, claiming there are “significant shortcomings” in the current internal investigation.
He told Cameron “there are important questions which I do not believe will be sufficiently addressed by this process”.
The letter states: “The terms of reference are narrow and simply inadequate in light of the evidence that has come to light.”